Government flip-flops On Fake News Guidelines, Circular Withdrawn

After widespread protest from journalists, PM Narendra Modi directs circular issued on fake news by I&B Ministry on Monday evening to be withdrawn

Narendra Modi & Smriti Irani Narendra Modi, Prime Minister & Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting

In a major flip-flop by the government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today withdrew the circular issued by the Information and Broadcasting ministry that provided guidelines to be followed by the Press Council of India to regulate fake news. The PMO further said issues to do with fake news should only be addressed by the Press Council of India (PCI).

On Monday evening, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Smriti Irani had issued a circular calling for suspension of any PIB accredited journalist or news agency upon receiving any complaints for disseminating fake news. For determining if the news is fake or not, the case will be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) in case of print media and to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) in case of electronic media.

The circular came as a shock to journalists with several senior journalists, editors and owners tweeting against the necessity of it with many expressing fear that this could amount to harassment.

After the release of the circular and strong reactions from journalists, MIB minister Smriti Irani tweeted that it was open to suggestions.

While the circular now stands withdrawn, there is no clarity yet if Irani acted on her own without consulting the PM Narendra Modi. Any move to regulate the media is always looked with suspicion and hence surprising that the I&B Minister did not anticipate a backlash from the industry.

But there are others who now hope that the botched plan by the government would at least help the media to introspect on their own approach to the issue.

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